News

FCC: Cablevision, MSG Violated Program-Access Rules

9/26/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — The Federal
Communications Commission’s
Media Bureau ruled that Cablevision
Systems and Madison Square
Garden Network violated the agency’s
program-access rules by withholding
HD versions of MSG and
MSG Plus from Verizon Communications
and AT&T.

The FCC ruled that it was an “unfair
act” that “had the effect” of “significantly
hindering AT&T [and
Verizon] from providing a competing
video service.”

The agency said the New York-area
regional sports networks had 30
days to make themselves available
to both AT&T’s U-verse TV and Verizon’s
FiOS TV on reasonable terms
and conditions.

Verizon and AT&T called it a win
for consumers, while Cablevision
said the FCC’s Media Bureau had
not gotten its facts straight.

The decisions follow the FCC’s
move to close the so-called terrestrial
loophole/exemption that had prevented
access complaints against
withholding of affiliated terrestrially-
delivered networks. The FCC
gave AT&T and Verizon a chance to
refile their complaints under a new
standard of unfairness.

The rules also made clear that
HD and standard-def channels are
separate entities for the purposes of
access. Verizon’s FiOS TV carried
the standard-definition versions of
the channels, but Cablevision had
not made their HD counerparts
available.

In separate complaints, Verizon
and AT&T had asked the FCC
to force Cablevision Systems and
Madison Square Garden to sell
HD feeds of MSG Network and
MSG Plus to FiOS TV in the New
York area.

The FCC last year removed the
exemption of terrestrially delivered
networks like MSG from programaccess
requirements.

Both AT&T and Verizon complaints
involved carriage of HD
signals in Connecticut. Both carry
the SD feeds of MSG and MSG
Plus, which between them hold local
TV rights to the National Basketball
Association’s New York
Knicks, and the National Hockey
League’s New York Rangers, New
Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.
The Knicks and Rangers
are now part of Madison Square
Garden, which was spun off from
Cablevision last year.

“The FCC’s decision means
that Cablevision no longer can
withhold popular programming,
such as HD sports programming,
from its competitors,” AT&T said
in a statement. “We look forward
to bringing to our customers
this ‘must have’ content, and
enhancing AT&T’s U-Verse service
to better compete against the
cable companies. We are pleased
the FCC has resolved this dispute
in favor of competition and consumers.”

“Today’s disappointing rulings
do not appear to be based on
the facts,” Cablevision said in a
statement. “The data clearly demonstrates
that there has been no
competitive harm to the nation’s
two largest phone companies as a
result of not having two HD channels
they already receive in SD. New
York is the most competitive market
in the country and this decision
only hurts fair competition and consumers.
Instead of competing on
the merits in the marketplace, Verizon
and AT&T are manipulating
federal law to gain an unfair advantage
and we have every intention of
pursuing relief in the courts.”

March